Syllabus | Assignments

We will begin with an introduction to the social landscape in 1830s and 1840s Britain, then examine a wide range of fictional and poetic texts, as well as essays, social commentaries and short autobiographies under rubrics such as "Women," "Reform," Aestheticism," Faith and Doubt," Industry and the City, "Rural and Provincial Life," and "Imperialism and the Colonies." Along the way, we will study linguistic and psychological aspects of the poetry and autobiographies, social implications of the essays and art criticism, and aesthetic principles reflected in the fiction, and seek common motifs and modes of organization in these writings which may have crossed class, generic and regional boundaries.

We will read a brief autobiography by Elizabeth Campbell, essays by Karl Marx, John Stuart Mill, John Ruskin and Walter Pater, short stories by Elizabeth Gaskell, Margaret Oliphant, Flora Annie Steele and Sarah Grand, poetry by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Augusta Webster, Amy Levy, Alfred Tennyson, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Oscar Wilde and several working-class and dialect poets, and fictional works by Charles Dickens (Hard Times), George Eliot (Middlemarch), Rudyard Kipling (Kim), William Morris (News from Nowhere), and Ella Hepworth Dixon (The Story of a Modern Woman).

Students will be asked to post weekly comments on the class web site and to write two six-page essays on topics of their choice.




January 18th
January 23rd introduction/metrics (Tennyson, “The Kraken,” D. G. Rossetti, “Silent Noon”)

January 25th Alfred Tennyson, “The Lady of Shallot,” “Morte d’ Arthur”
January 30th working-class autobiographies

February 1st Charles Dickens, Hard Times
February 6th Hard Times

February 8th Pre-Raphaelite slides
3 page essay due--summarizing and commenting on one of the Victorian essays on poetry in the back of the Broadview Anthology of Victorian Poetry; or a chapter from John Stuart Mill’s “On Liberty”
February 13th Dante Gabriel Rossetti, “The Blessed Damozel,” sonnets from “The House of Life,”--“Willowwood,” “A Superscription,” “The One Hope”; Christina Rossetti, “In An Artist’s Studio”

February 15th William Morris, “The Haystack in the Floods”; Robert Browning, “My Last Duchess,” “Childe Roland”
February 20th Robert Browning, “By the Fire-Side,” “Abt Vogeler”

February 22nd John Stuart Mill, The Subjection of Women

February 27th John Stuart Mill, The Subjection of Women

March 1st George Eliot, Middlemarch, book 1
tenative topic + bibliography for first paper due (bibliography should contain 5 non-internet, non-encyclopedia articles and books; some should be from after 1980)
March 6th trip to Special Collections in Main Library

March 8th Middlemarch, books 2 and 3
paper outline, thesis statement and draft of paper due
spring break
March 20th Middlemarch, books 4 and 5

March 22nd Middlemarch, books 6 and 7

first longer paper due
March 27th Middlemarch, book 8

March 29th Rudyard Kipling, selected poems
April 3rd Rudyard Kipling, Kim

April 5th Rudyard Kipling, Kim
April 10th Gerard Manley Hopkins, “The Wreck of the Deutschland”

April 12th Gerard Manley Hopkins, "The Wreck of the Deutschland"
April 17th William Morris and the decorative arts (slides)

April 19th William Morris, News from Nowhere (first 13 chapters)
April 24th News from Nowhere, illustrated

April 26th News from Nowhere, chapters 14-32
May 2nd short stories, George Egerton, "Gone Under"; Margaret Oliphant, “The Open Door”
exam precis

May 4th Oscar Wilde, "The Sphinx"; Mary Coleridge, "The Other Side of th Mirror"; R. M. Watson, "The Ballad of the Were-Wolf"
May 10th exam (take-home essay + class summary)



MW 3:30 p. m., 209 English-Philosophy Building

instructor: Florence Boos,
office hours: 319 EPB, 2:30 W and MW 7-8 p. m.; Tuesday, Thursday and Friday afternoons by appointment

class web site:, then select course title from list, click on Icon from menu bar to post for discussion

The course texts, which are in the IMU Bookstore, are:
Broadview Anthology of Victorian Poetry, ed. Collins and Rundle
Eliot, George, Middlemarch
Dickens, Charles, Hard Times
Morris, William, News from Nowhere, ed. Clive Wilmer
Kipling, Rudyard, Kim
Mill, John Stuart, The Subjection of Women, Chicago
Dixon, Ella H., The Story of a Modern Woman

handouts on: working-class autobiographies; historical background; metrics; Margaret Oliphant, “The Open Door”; Sarah Grand, “The Undefinable: A Fantasia”; George Egerton, “Down Under”; Mary Coleridge, “The Other Side of the Mirror” and “The Wild Women”

Course requirements:

1. attendance and preparation: mandatory
Don’t take this course if you don’t plan to attend steadily, read the course texts and contribute to discussion!

2. 8 postings: on-line discussion in response to course readings
These are your responses to an aspect of a text we are reading/have read. They should be at least one page single-spaced, and because of the oddities of Icon, you should probably prepare them in advance, then cut and paste.
Two of your responses should comment on/continue a discussion begun by another student, and one should comment on some aspect of our trip to Special Collections.

3. 1 3 page essay, a summary and commentary on one of the Victorian critical articles on poetry at the back of The Broadview Anthology of Victorian Poetry. Some of these are quite famous and controversial, such as the attack on Dante Gabriel Rossetti, “The Fleshly School of Poetry” and Rossetti’s response, Arthur Hugh Clough’s defense of “spasmodic” poetry, or Algernon Swinburne’s attack on Tennyson in “Under the Microscope”; others are good examples of Victorian taste, such as Matthew Arnold’s “Preface to the First Edition of Poems” and “The Function of Criticism at the Present Time,” and others attempt to lay out aesthetic categories, such as John Ruskin’s “Of the Pathetic Fallacy” and Walter Bagehot’s “Pure, Ornate and Grotesque Art in English Poetry,” or to comment on interpretive methodology, such as Walter Pater’s “Preface” to the Renaissance.

If you don’t want to write on one of these essays, you may comment on John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty, chapter 1.

4. research/critical paper: This essay, of a minimum of six pages, should examine some aspect of a course text in the context of critical and/or historical background. I will hand out a list of sample topics. For example, you could write on labor relations in Charles Dickens’ Hard Times in the context of the Chartist movement and the industrial unrest of the time. Your bibliography should contain at least five non-internet sources, excluding encyclopedia articles; but you may use some of the references at the end of our volumes (e. g. the Broadview editions have appended historical and literary material at the end).

Two weeks before the paper is due you should turn in your title and bibliography, and one week before it is due you should turn in an outline, abstract and thesis statement, and first draft.

5. take-home final/critical essay: This essay, of a minimum of six pages, will compare/contrast a work by two authors we have read. For example, you could compare the heroines and/or narrative voice of George Eliot’s Middlemarch with that in George Egerton’s “Down Under.”

We will have a final class meeting May 8th at 3:30 p. m., at which students summarize their final papers.

Some Sample Topics for First Six-Page Essay:

“The Lady of Shallot” in Poem and Picture
“The Lady of Shallot” as an Allegory of Art/Maturation/Victorian Womanhood
Sound and Imagery in “The Lady of Shallot”
The Search for an Ideal in “The Lady of Shallot” and “Childe Roland”

Imagery and Allegory in “Childe Roland”/Dream Motifs in “Childe Roland”
Sound and Language in “Childe Roland”
What Does the “Dark Tower” Mean?
Victorian Medievalism: “The Lady of Shallot,” “Childe Roland” and “The Blessed Damozel”

“The Blessed Damozel” in Poem and Painting
An Earthly Heaven: Visual Detail in “The Blessed Damozel”
A Receding Ideal: Sound and Language in “The House of Life”
Love in “The Blessed Damozel” and “The House of Life”

Features of Victorian Working-Class Autobiographies: Lucy Luck, Elizabeth Campbell and Ellen Johnston
Working-Class Experience: The Testimony of Autobiographies and Dickens’s Hard Times

Fact and Fancy in Hard Times
Imagery and Meaning in Hard Times/Structure as an Index of Meaning in Hard Times
Family Relationships in Hard Times/Marriage in Hard Times

The Portrayal of Death in Hard Times/Industrial Relations in Hard Times
Class Stereotypes in Hard Times/Minor Characters in Hard Times

Victorian Views on Women: The Context for Mill’s Subjection
John Stuart Mill and the Victorian Women’s Movement
The Subjection of Women and the Argument for Individual Choice
The Victorian Middle-Class Woman in John Stuart Mill and Dickens
Style and Argument in Mill’s Subjection of Women
Are Women the Only “Subjects”? Mill’s Arguments Applied to Other Groups

Companionate Marriage in John Stuart Mill’s The Subjection of Women and George Eliot’s Middlemarch
The Narrator in Middlemarch (could be subdivided)
Money and Morality in Middlemarch
St. Teresa and the Man of Science: Parallel Plots in Middlemarch
Interrelated Plots in Middlemarch
Provincial Politics in Middlemarch
The Death of Featherstone in Middlemarch
Art and the World of Culture in Middlemarch
The Two Marriage Plot: Causabon and Ladislaw
Moral Development in Middlemarch

The Search for Vocation in Middlemarch

Victorian Literature and Culture, Final Paper/Exam:

A draft should be handed in at our final session on Monday May 8th, at 3:30 p. m., and the final version by Friday May 12th at 5 p. m.
You should write a six page essay contrasting some aspect of the works of two writers we have studied to show how they represent important features of Victorian literary culture or sensibility, or alternately, different aspects of Victorian literary taste. If the works you discuss are from different genres or decades of the century, you should consider whether their different qualities reflect shifts in Victorian literary preoccupations as the century progressed. Your essay, in other words, should comment not only on the works themselves but how they express thematic concerns or stylistic qualities of their respective authors and/or periods.
Your essay should include comments on stylistic features of the works you discuss: style, organization, metaphor, and narrative voice; and for poems, stanzaic form, rhythm, meter and diction.
Poems we have studied have included Alfred Tennyson, “The Kraken,” “The Lady of Shallot,” and “Morte d’ Arthur”; D. G. Rossetti, “Silent Noon,” “The Blessed Damozel,” other sonnets from “The House of Life,” esp. “Willowwood,” “A Superscription,” and “The One Hope”; Christina Rossetti, “In An Artist’s Studio”; William Morris, “The Haystack in the Floods”; Robert Browning, “My Last Duchess,” “Childe Roland,” “By the Fire-Side,” “Apt Vogeler”; Rudyard Kipling, “The Ballad of East and West,” “Gunga Din,” “Fuzzy-Wuzzy,” Danny Deever,” “The Road to Mandelay”; and Gerard Manley Hopkins,“The Wreck of the Deutschland.”
Works of fiction we have read have included Charles Dickens, Hard Times; George Eliot, Middlemarch; Rudyard Kipling’s Kim; Oliphant’s “The Open Door”; and George Egerton’s “Gone Under.”
Utopias and polemical works have included J. S. Mill’s The Subjection of Women and William Morris’s News from Nowhere.
The working-class autobiographies we read were by Lucy Luck, Elizabeth Campbell and Ellen Johnston.

Topics you might consider for contrast include:

the presentation of middle-class life/lower-class life
the tension between realism and romance
the British empire in ideal and reality
Victorian views of women/ the “Woman Question” in Victorian literature
masculinity and “manliness” in Victorian literature
the meaning of death/death as a threshold
themes of death and violence
the uses of history
narrative arrangement; the role of the narrator
geography and landscape
industrialism and work
motivation for work; the nature of creative work
parent/child relationships
marriage in Victorian literature
crime and criminality, “fallenness”
religious imagery/revisionist uses of faith/issues of belief and doubt
the social meaning of religion
introspection, the divided or alienated self
views on education (e. g. Morris, Mill)
views on science (e. g. Eliot, Oliphant)
the oppressions of convention/social opinion
myth and legend (e. g. Arthurian legend, classical mythology)
the conditions for romantic love
issues of fate/social determination
paintings and poems
uses of the dramatic monologue
social hierarchy/issues of class and marginalization
redemption/human fellowship/alternative societies or ideals
the nature of beauty; the nature of morality
the book arts and the material context for works of literature
illustrations for poems or fiction (e. g. the original illustrations to Hard Times)
pleasure and relaxation
modes of achieving narrative or poetic closure


Mandatory Material from the College of Liberal Arts:

Students With Disabilities

Instructors will make reasonable accommodations for students with physical, mental or learning disabilities. Students with disabilities that may require some modification of seating, testing, or other class requirements should visit their instructor during his or her office hours so that appropriate arrangements may be made. It is the student's responsibility to contact Student Disability Services, 3100 Burge Hall (335-1462), and obtain a Student Academic Accommodation Request form (SAAR). This form specifies what course accommodations are judged reasonable for a given student. An instructor who cannot provide the accommodations specified, or has concerns about the accommodations, must contact the Student Disability Services counselor who signed the request form within 48 hours of receiving the form from the student.

Academic Policies

This course is given by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. This means that class policies on matters such as requirements, grading, and sanctions for academic dishonesty are governed by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Students wishing to add or drop this course after the official deadline must receive approval of the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Details of the University policy of cross enrollments may be found at: Students should also assume, unless they are told otherwise, that all courses taken in the English Department employ plus-minus grading.

Departmental/Collegiate Complaint Procedures

A student who has a complaint against any member of the college's teaching staff is responsible for following the procedures described in the Student Academic Handbook, which is available on the web site of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences: The student should first attempt to resolve the issue with the faculty member or the teaching assistant involved. Lacking a satisfactory outcome, the student can turn to the Associate Chair of Undergraduate Programs, Douglas Trevor (, 335-0472). If a satisfactory resolution remains unmet, the student may contact the English Department Chair, Jonathan Wilcox (, 335-0454). If the complaint concerns a teaching assistant, the student should contact the supervising faculty member first, then speak to the chair of undergraduate programs, and lastly approach the departmental chair. After these options have been exhausted, the student may turn to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and submit a written complaint to the Associate Dean for Academic Programs, 120 Schaeffer Hall (335-2633). Please note: in complaints involving the assignment of grades, it is college policy that grades cannot be changed without the permission of the department concerned.

Plagiarism And Cheating

You are expected to be honest and honorable in your fulfillment of assignments and in test-taking situations. Plagiarism and cheating are serious forms of academic misconduct. Examples of them are given in the Student Academic Handbook: The English Department works with individual instructors to detect plagiarism and cheating and to ensure that appropriately serious punishments are applied. An instructor who suspects a student of plagiarism or cheating must inform the student (in writing) as soon as possible after the incident has been observed or discovered. Instructors who detect cheating or plagiarism may decide, in consultation with the departmental chair, to reduce the student's grade on the assignment or the course, even to assign an F. In either case, the instructor will write an account of the chronology of the plagiarism or cheating incident for the departmental chair, who will send an endorsement of the written report of the case to the Associate Dean for academic programs. A copy of the report will be sent to the student, who has the right to request a hearing within the Department and/or within the College.

Homework Expectation

For each semester hour of credit that an English Department course carries, students should expect to spend approximately two hours per week outside of class preparing for class sessions. That is, in a three-credit-hour course, instructors design course assignments on the assumption that students will spend six hours per week in out-of-class preparation.